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Vol. 20, No. 1

In the News Missing pieces It’s hard to tell if Cuba’s making progress when key economic statistics are confusing or hidden from view ................Page 4

Political briefs Document reveals details on Alan Gross; dissident dies in hunger strike ....Page 5

Where’s the beef? U.S. food exporters wonder why they don’t sell more meat to Cuba .................Page 6

Gradual change Brookings Institute’s Ted Piccone shares his impressions of Havana ............Page 8

EIU’s outlook Six economic trends to watch for in Cuba over the next five years .................Page 9

Law 288 a windfall New real-estate law is great if you already own property in Cuba ..................Page 10

Cuba’s illiquid debt London brokerage house Exotix has made a killing off unusual trade ...........Page 11

Healing waters Cuba awash in traditional bottled mineral water, therapeutic springs ...........Page 12

Flesh-eating zombies “Juan de los Muertos” is Cuba’s first-ever horror flick, but is it good? .........Page 15 CubaNews (ISSN 1073-7715) is published monthly by CUBANEWS LLC. © 2012. All rights reserved. Annual subscription: $398. Nonprofit organizations: $198. Printed edition is $100 extra. For editorial inquires, please call (305) 393-8760, fax your request to (305) 670-2229 or email

January 2012

Cuba becomes an issue as Republicans fight for votes in Florida’s GOP primary BY ANA RADELAT


he subject of Cuba has barely received a mention in any of the Republican presidential candidates’ stump speeches or their 20 debates, but that’s about to change as the Florida primary nears. While a new round of Castro-bashing is virtually guaranteed, substantial differences abound in the positions the GOP candidates have taken on Cuba — ranging from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s hardline stance to Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s opposition to the embargo. On Jan. 3, Iowans thought they had handed Romney an 8-vote victory over second-place finisher, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Sixteen days later, however, officials say Santorum actually defeated Romney by 34 votes. Romney then finished first in the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary and Paul came in second, but Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are still hanging on. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Texas

Gov. Rick Perry have since dropped out. The South Carolina primary, set for Jan. 21, may winnow out a few more GOP hopefuls, but the race is still expected to be competitive when Florida Republicans go to the polls on Jan. 31. That means the candidates will chase the votes of South Florida’s Cuban-American voters, who lean Republican in presidential elections. Huntsman, who has since endorsed Romney, was the first to woo those voters with an August appearance in Coconut Grove and an endorsement by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Jr. Until political reform comes to Cuba, Huntsman declared at that campaign stop, “I will not give any consideration to lifting [the embargo.]” Gingrich, who believes a “Cuban Spring” similar to last year’s popular Arab rebellions is in the offing, said he’d return to the travel restrictions imposed by President Bush in 2004. Appearing last week at Versailles Restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana with Rep. David Rivera, See Florida, page 3

U.S. embargo against Cuba still defines bilateral ties, 50 years after its passage BY LARRY LUXNER


spirited debate between Colin Powell’s exchief of staff and a Cuban-born enemy of the Castro regime serves as yet another reminder how divisive the U.S. embargo of Cuba remains, 50 years after its implementation. The Jan. 18 faceoff, sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C., was titled “Cuba: Is it Time for the United States to Normalize Relations and End the Sanctions?” In attendance were 65 people, each of whom paid $10 or more to hear arguments that have been thrown around for years on the Washington think-tank circuit. It featured embargo critic Col. Larry Wilkerson on one side, and Mike González — who supports a hardline Cuba policy — on the other. Seated between them was moderator Ginger Thompson, Washington correspondent for the New York Times and the newspaper’s former bureau chief in Mexico City.

It was a good thing too, because the exchanges between Wilkerson and González, while for the most part civil, got testy at times. “If this were 1962 and I told you all that it was more likely the United States would elect a black man president than lift the embargo against Cuba, I bet you’d have called me crazy,” said Thompson, who’s covered U.S.-Cuba relations extensively. “But here we are,” she told her audience. “The Berlin Wall is down, the Soviet Union has disappeared, and still we have the embargo in place. It remains almost as solid today as when it was established to break Fidel Castro’s hold on power. Five decades later, that goal remains unfulfilled. This is one of the most polarizing debates on Capitol Hill, and recent actions by the Obama administration [to relax Cuba-related travel and remittance regulations] have done little to please those on either side.” See Embargo, page 2


For Mike González, vice-president of communications at the Heritage Foundation, this debate is deeply personal. “I left Cuba at the age of 12, after my father died. I saw first-hand what it was like to live under that terrible regime. I remember how my teachers tried to get me to denounce my friend, my family and my church, which I would not do,” said an emotional González. “Cuba went from a first-rate economy to a barter economy,” he continued. “I remember how my father had to trade whiskey and cigarettes for milk for his kids. I made a career all over the world as a reporter to defend freedom for that reason.” Indeed, González spent 20 years as a journalist, 15 of them covering Europe and Asia for the Wall Street Journal. He left journalism to join the administration of President George W. Bush, eventually joining the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based outfit that’s known for its ultraconservative views. “Communism didn’t work in Korea, it didn’t work in Germany. What makes you think it’s going to produce wealth in Cuba?” he said. “The Cuban economy is in ruins today not because of the embargo, because its socialist policies have failed.”

nism, the same which Ahmadinejad supports in Tehran. And that regime will be a very willing accomplice to any state or individual who means to do us harm.” And despite the economic reforms that have undoubtedly given many Cubans hope for the future, “the dirty little secret about Raúl Castro is that he has unleashed a wave of violence and repression in the last six months,” said González. “Damas en Blanco [Ladies in White] is a group of defenseless women who try to march to church on Sundays, but they’re beaten by goons bussed in by the regime. Two months ago, outside Cuba’s holiest shrine in Santiago de Cuba, a mob stripped them to the waist and dragged them through the streets.” According to Havana human rights activist

nomic hardship here at home. “People don’t care about Cuba, and you can’t blame them,” he said. “After all, we’ve got Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and a financial situation in this country that I think is as profound as the Great Depression. So it’s very difficult to get Americans’ attention about 11.4 million people living on an island 90 miles off the Florida Strait.” Even more so in a presidential election year like 2012, said the retired colonel. “Karl Rove once told Colin Powell, ‘Don’t touch Cuba because we want Florida’s 27 electoral votes.’ Dick Cheney also knew our Cuba policy was idiotic, but even he knew that you don’t touch Cuba policy. Anybody who doesn’t know that is simply smoking something. The Obama administration is the first LARRY LUXNER

Embargo — FROM PAGE 1

CubaNews v January 2012


Wilkerson, who’s just returned from a trip to Havana, is a visiting professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Before being appointed Powell’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, Wilkerson was associate director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass (2001-02). A former director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Va., he’s also taught at both the U.S. Naval War College and George Washington University. “Two different Coast Guard attaches with the U.S. Interests Section in Havana told me during this last trip that when it comes to terrorism, counter-narcotics and every other illicit activity, their relationship with the Cuban military is the best in the Caribbean, even better than with Mexico,” said Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the Army. “But our military wouldn’t like to publicize that because they feel like doing it on the sly will ultimately produce a more positive result than saying, ‘hey, we’re working with the Cubans.’” Wilkerson, whom we profiled nearly four years ago (see CubaNews, April 2008, page 8), also mentioned the explosion of private restaurants, barber shops and other small businesses made possible by a series of recent reforms unveiled by President Raúl Castro. “Col. Wilkerson was not the only foreigner in Cuba last week,” González retorted. “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was there too — and not to go to the beach, and not as many middleaged European men do, to seek sexual favors with young Cuban women. The organizing principle of the Cuban regime is anti-America-

Anti-embargo crusader Larry Wilkerson, moderator Ginger Thompson and embargo defender Mike González.

Elizardo Sánchez, the Castro regime arrested 4,123 people for political reasons in 2011 — an average of 11 a day. “I agree with Col. Wilkerson. I want to normalize relations with Cuba as well, but only after the Castro regime gives its people the self-determination we all enjoy here,” said González. “I wouldn’t do it unilaterally, because that would legitimize the regime and give them what they want.” Wilkerson, an ardent critic of U.S. policy not only in Latin America but also the Middle East, said he’s in no rush to normalize ties either — because a sudden end to the embargo wouldn’t be in either country’s interests. “I’d much rather see an incremental policy,” he said. “I don’t think Fidel wants the embargo lifted either. In fact, I think Ileana [Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee] and the Castro brothers are aiding and abetting each other.” FLORIDA’S PRIZED 27 ELECTORAL VOTES

Wilkerson said he was 13 years old when he visited Cuba for the first time, with his grandmother. As they were getting off the boat in Havana harbor, he recalled, “she told me I’d see lots of whorehouses and casinos. She said, don’t go into any of them.” The problem today, he explained, is that Cuba policy isn’t a priority for an administration consumed with the war in Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear aspirations and continuing eco-

to get into the White House without the hardline Cuban vote in Florida, so they have a little more flexibility with regard to that reality. However, it’s still a very difficult move for the Democrats to make.” SAME OLD ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST

But when Wilkerson complained about “the money sloshing through Congress” from Cuban-American exile PACs to convince Democrats to oppose any relaxation of the embargo, that was too much for González. “What about the powerful agriculture and tourism lobbies?” he asked. “The little money the Cuban-Americans can put up against these corporations is a pittance.” Wilkerson said that 50 years of blacklisting Cuba has done nothing to dislodge the Castro brothers from power. All it’s done, he said, is make life unbearable for average Cubans. “That’s one of the reasons we changed our Burma policy. We were hurting the Burmese people badly by our sanctions and helping only the generals,” he noted. “In Cuba’s case, we traded one dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who was a criminal, for another dictator who was a communist. But that’s history. Whether Cuba’s problems are a result of the embargo or not is irrelevant.” González, whose Heritage Foundation bitterly opposes any attempts to weaken the emSee Embargo, page 3


January 2012 v CubaNews

Embargo — FROM PAGE 2 bargo, agreed that U.S. policy hasn’t accomplished its stated goal. However, he says, that’s because it’s not international in scope. “An embargo doesn’t work unless you’ve got the whole world behind it. That’s why apartheid ended in South Africa, which allowed less than 20% of the population — the white minority — to vote,” he said. “For 50 years, the Cuban regime has not allowed anyone to vote.” Wilkerson, conceding his opponent’s point that a group of aging octogenarians runs the country, said that while he was in Havana, he met with younger Communist Party officials who represent the new generation in Cuba. BOTH SIDES PLAY THE CHINA CARD

“We’ve got to figure out a way to turn over the reins of power to these 40-year-olds, because there isn’t any way. All I’m after is a higher standard of living for the 11.4 million Cubans who couldn’t give a rat’s ass whose governing them.” The comment sparked an immediate, angry reaction from González. “That’s incredibly patronizing,” he said. “The Cubans are adults. Let them pick who they want to have for their next leader. They should have the right to decide who’s in charge.” Gesturing in Wilkerson’s direction, he said “the Cuban economy is 80% controlled by generals. Maybe because you spent a life-

Florida — FROM PAGE 1 Gingrich vowed to fully endorse the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, and said that if elected president, he’d “move very aggressively toward maximizing dissent” on the island. “You might try to find a way to give virtually every Cuban a free radio,” Gingrich said, referring to a tactic that was already tried during the Bush administration. Gingrich also promised to abolish the “wetfoot, dry-foot” policy, which lets Cuban migrants stay in the U.S. only if they reach land. “I think we ought to have some rule that says if you get far enough away from Cuba you've made it,” he told reporters. “I think it’s a terrible thing to say to somebody that you can be within sight of land and that if we intercept you, we’re sending you back.” Santorum has largely ignored Florida and its voters, and has said little about Cuba. But he voted for the embargo-strengthening 1996 Helms Burton Act and has consistently supported anti-Cuba sanctions already in place. Romney is also tough on Cuba and has won the endorsement of Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Díaz-Balart, as well as Mario’s older brother, former Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart. “We must maintain our current policy toward Cuba until the Castro regime is dismantled, all political prisoners are freed and a transition to free and fair elections take place,” Romney said in a policy statement. Romney has also lumped Cuba in with

time in the military, you’re fine with that.” The subject of China came up several times — with both men purporting to be experts on the world’s most populous nation. Wilkerson noted that in communist China, the military is also deeply involved in that country’s economy “because they have to be, just like it’s going to be anywhere you’ve got guns and bullets” — yet Washington has full diplomatic and trade relations with Beijing. “China is my area of expertise,” said Wilkerson. “I’ve been studying that country for 30 years, and the Chinese are assembling awesome cultural, military and social power. I’d say the biggest threat to the United States in the future is not Cuba, but the People’s Republic of China. Believe me, I’m not worried about Cuba threatening us.” González had an answer for that too. “I reported from China for 10 years, and China has the distinction of being the only country in the world with more journalists in prison than Cuba. But China has 1.3 billion people, and Cuba has only 11 million.” SOLUTION TO GROSS CASE KEY TO BETTER TIES

More than once, the Cuban exile reminded his audience that impoverished Haiti — one of the world’s poorest countries — has three times the Internet penetration Cuba has. González could have also said, but didn’t, that Haiti’s mobile phone penetration exceeds 50%, while Cuba’s is just over 10%. The subject of 62-year-old Maryland resident Alan Gross, who’s serving a 15-year jail North Korea, Iran and Venezuela as dangerous nations with “anti-American visions.” Perry, who quit the race Jan. 19 and endorsed Gingrich, said nothing about Cuba — other than to insist during a debate that Washington should follow a “Bay of Pigs” policy toward troublesome Latin American nations. The Texas governor was seemingly unaware that JFK’s 1961 invasion of Cuba had failed. On the other hand, libertarian Ron Paul has been a longtime foe of the embargo who worked hard to win passage of legislation that allowed U.S. farm sales to Cuba, opening the door to exports of Texas rice, poultry and other agricultural commodities to the island. SHIFTER: ROMNEY WILL BE EXILES’ TOP CHOICE

Paul was also a sponsor of legislation to remove all restrictions of U.S. travel to Cuba. “Our isolationist policies with regards to Cuba …have hardly won the hearts and minds of Cubans,” Paul said. “Let’s stop the hysterics about the freedom of Cubans — which is not our government’s responsibility — and consider freedom of the American people, which is. Americans want the freedom to travel and trade with their Cuban neighbors, as they are free to travel and trade with Vietnam and China.” Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, told CubaNews that Romney is likely to be the favorite of Florida’s Cuban-American exiles. “I suspect Cuban-Americans would prefer

sentence for distributing telecom equipment in violation of Cuban law, also came up. González defended the actions of the U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor by couching it in patriotic terms. “His sin was to take computers down there and hand them out to Cuba’s Jewish community. This man is being held hostage right now, and Alan Gross is a living testament to this unacceptable regime,” said González. González implored his audience not to “ignore the blood of Cubans just because you have some romantic notion of Che Guevara.” Yet Wilkerson said the official U.S. line about aiding Cuba’s Jews is utter nonsense — especially since the Jewish community is already well-connected to the Internet. “Alan Gross is a special situation, just as the Cuban Five are a special situation, but the facts have been obfuscated,” he said. “He was definitely breaking Cuban law, but look, the Cubans are reciprocating. The entire process that convicted the Cuban Five of spying was utterly trumped up. The U.S. government was sending money to publish stories in Miami newspapers and go on TV in order to prejudice the jury pool.” Wilkerson added: “This is not justice, and this could be settled in a heartbeat. All we’d have to say is ‘come home, Alan, go home, Cuban Five.’ And there would be no impact on national security whatsoever.” q Larry Luxner, a Maryland-based journalist who writes frequently on Latin America and the Caribbean, has been the editor of CubaNews since 2002. to go with a winner, and Romney seems to best fit that bill,” said Shifter. “And there is speculation that he would choose [Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio as his running mate.” Rubio, a 40-year-old Cuban-American who strongly supports the embargo, has declined to endorse anyone in the race. Francisco José “Pepe” Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, disagrees with Shifter. He said Gingrich, who comes from neighboring Georgia, is likely to get the most support from CubanAmerican primary voters. “He’s well known to the Cuban people because he was speaker of the House and he’s come [to Florida] often,” Hernández told us. Gingrich is also popular in the Cuban community because “he wouldn’t change the regulations much,” said the CANF leader, who plans to meet all GOP candidates this month. “We hope then they’ll understand a little more about the reality of the Cuban situation.” In an effort to reach exile voters as well as other Hispanics who vote Republican, the Republican candidates are likely to run their first Spanish-language TV ads in Florida. A spokeswoman for Univisión, the largest Spanish-language network in the United States, said its Miami affiliate is “in conversations with all the campaigns and PACs and has received inquiries for proposals as they focus on the Florida primary.” q Washington-based journalist Ana Radelat has covered Cuba-related issues on Capitol Hill for CubaNews since the newsletter’s birth in 1993.


CubaNews v January 2012


National Assembly: Missing pieces of an economic puzzle BY DOMINGO AMUCHASTEGUI


t’s extremely difficult to follow Cuba’s economic performance and major trends — in large part because of the way official statistics are disseminated; no wonder foreign observers are grumbling. These economic reports issued by the National Assembly consist, for the most part, of percentages rather than clear-cut figures from which percentages are easily calculated. Mixing Cuban pesos that are fixed at an artificially high exchange rate against the U.S. dollar and convertible pesos (CUCs) makes any calculation a nightmare. Highlighting certain results without providing the costs makes the reports even more misleading. One recent example: tourism reportedly grew by 8% in 2011, with the growth rate expected to 15% in 2012. Great, but what does that mean in dollars and cents? And the ratio vis-à-vis costs? The government claims more than 2.5 million tourists visited Cuba in 2011, but others object to that number, pointing out that 400,000 of these “tourists” were actually Cuban exiles visiting their relatives on the island, which is clearly not tourism. Subsequently, anyone could conclude that true tourism arrivals have remained stagnant over the last few years. Moreover, budget figures aren’t broken

down, nor do they specify the correlation between income and expenditures in dollars. In some Third World economies, a separate and detailed budget in hard currency is available. But the Cuban government discloses nothing of this sort, except for a few items like the cost of food imports. Economic reports to the National Assembly do not discuss Cuba’s foreign debt and how much of that is being paid on a yearly basis. Cuba’s reserves in hard currency —not to mention gold reserves — are a mystery, yet everyone was surprised when Cuba came up with $700 million to buy out Telecom Italia’s stake in state-run Etecsa. TOO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Other key components in the Cuban economy that remain absent from reports and debates include the exact amount of dollars from remittances, and the value of exports from Cuba’s professional services offered to various countries, beginning with doctors. It would be an interesting to know to what extent the Cuban economy is currently subsidized by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez — an economic dependency frequently raised by critics of the Castro government, as well as those who wonder what’ll happen to Cuba when Chávez dies or is voted out of office. Economists also object to the fact that no

Raúl urges gradual approach to change


n his recent speech to Cuba’s National Assembly, President Raúl Castro said the reforms he’s implemented over the last three years are only the first steps. “The fundamental questions are still pending, but this doesn’t mean that we are not advancing at the foreseen rhythm,” he said, insisting on his notion of “without haste, but without pause, with a required integral and gradual approach. Raúl referred to Cuba’s slight economic recovery last year as “acceptable and sustained” — and without praise or flattery he stressed the importance of “cutting expenditures as much as possible as a major source of income.” His closing remarks, 13 long paragraphs of them, focused on Cuba’s chaotic government bureaucracy and its gross mismanagement of economic policy, and how this promotes corruption. Raúl reiterated his strong desire to put an end to all this within the framework of Cuba’s existing legal system. Also important, said the president, was the fact that Cuba unfroze foreign bank accounts last year — reversing an action originally taken following the 2008 global financial crisis.

He said procedures are being put in place to avoid any similar measures in the future; it’s part of sustained efforts by Cuba’s new minister of economy and planning, Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, to reschedule the country’s massive foreign debt. As for those who were disappointed that the government didn’t announce a relaxation of its travel policy as was widely expected, Raúl repeated what he said last August, that there is “a will to slowly change” existing regulations, and that everyone needs to understand “the exceptional circumstances in which Cuba lives.” Raúl didn’t specify how or when such changes will take place, though experts believe it won’t come in the form of a single piece of legislation. Rather, they say, the new rules will unfold in stages — all of them linked to the state of U.S.-Cuba ties. On that subject, Cuba’s president says Washington’s policies toward Cuba remain “stuck in the past, with an absence of political will to improve relations” which “emboldens the most reactionary sectors [in the United States] to promote new provocations and aggressive acts” against Cuba. – DOMINGO AMUCHASTEGUI

data is data available concerning defense and security expenditures, or even how much biotech and pharmaceuticals cost when compared to the sector’s $300 million in annual exports. Another good example: several years ago, it was stated that nickel had become Cuba’s largest single source of hard currency. This year, despite very positive reports by Sherritt International and a relative improvement in world nickel prices, there wasn’t one word about nickel in the National Assembly report. But Cuba is not by any stretch of the imagination a “normal” economy. Why hold back these figures? This is a critical question. Is it merely the legacy of a centralized, Soviet-type command economy? Perhaps it’s excessive secrecy in spite of Raúl Castro’s promises to put an end to what he called secretismo. Or maybe it’s the feeling that witholding information makes one stronger. On the other hand, perhaps Cuba is trying to outsmart its foreign creditors — or maybe it’s just a lack of instititutional acccountability and financial discipline. All of these could be among the reasons Cuba is keeping crucial economic facts and data from the public. It so happens that security issues are more important than all the others put together. An economy subject to a U.S. embargo deeply distorts Cuba’s policies in many ways; the fact that Cuba is still included in the State Department’s so-called “terrorist list” makes it even more so. The regime perceives itself as being under siege, and believes that disclosing such data would make it even more vulnerable. This siege mentality and the policies it breeds is hurting Cuba’s credibility now more than ever. An effective end to secretismo is a prerequisite if the island ever hopes to reinsert itself fully and completely in the international arena. It may take some time for this to happen — but the sooner the better. q Former Cuban intelligence officer Domingo Amuchastegui has lived in Miami since 1994. He writes regularly for CubaNews on the Communist Party and South Florida’s Cuban exile community.

Cuba open to drug accord The Cuban government says authorities seized more than nine tons of drugs in 2011 and detected 399 aerial drops to gofast boats intending to bring the drugs to the United States, up from 108 in 2010. The Communist Party daily newspaper Granma blamed “high demand for drugs in the United States, the world’s leading consumer of narcotics.” Even so, Granma said Cuba would sign an anti-drug cooperation treaty with Washington despite five decades of mistrust.


January 2012 v CubaNews

POLITICAL BRIEFS DOCUMENT REVEALS MORE DETAILS ON GROSS CASE An alleged leaked court document states that Alan Gross — jailed in Havana for crimes against the state — was tracked by authorities since 2004 and had visited Cuba at least five times in 2009 to install wireless Internet networks. The document, the most detailed account so far laying out prosecutors’ case against Gross, 62, gives blow-by-blow descriptions of his work with Cuban Jewish communities to establish independent, satellite-based networks in synagogues in Havana, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. Cuban officials wouldn’t say if the document, posted on the Café Fuerte blog, is authentic. POSTCARD CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO ‘FREE THE FIVE’ An international committee that seeks freedom for five Cuban citizens convicted of spying against the United States has started 2012 with a new postcard and poster campaign aimed directly at President Obama. The image was created by Cuban graphic artist Jorge Martell; it’s being printed on 50,000 postcards with help from sympathetic unions in France and Canada. In addition, 10,000 posters will be printed in Venezuela. “As legal recourses for the Cuban 5 wind down, it is more important than ever to expand our outreach and visibility to bring about awareness of the case that will inevitably be the key ingredient in gaining their freedom,” says a press release. Details: International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, PO Box 22455, Oakland, CA 94609-5055. Email: DISSIDENT DIES AFTER 50-DAY HUNGER STRIKE Wilman Villar, a Cuban political dissident who began a hunger strike in late November, died Jan. 19 at Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital in Santiago de Cuba. The dissident was serving a four-year jail sentence at the time of his death. Villar, 31, “became a martyr of the opposition movement in defense of individual liberties and human rights in Cuba,” stated the Miami Herald. The newspaper reported that Villar was being kept alive by a respirator for several days before he contracted a sepsis infection that killed him. His case has drawn strong expressions of support from other dissidents and comparisons with Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died Feb. 23, 2010, after a hunger strike of more than 80 days. “If this brother dies, the dictatorship will be re-sponsible, just as it was responsible for the death of Zapata,” said Jose Daniel Ferrer García, who heads the dissident Cuban Patriotic Union. Ferrer said Villar joined the union in October and was arrested Nov. 14 during a violent police crackdown on dissent in his hometown of Contramaestre, in the province of Santiago de Cuba.

In their own words … “We asked him to intercede before Pope Benedict XVI so that when he arrives in Cuba, he will meet with us. We spoke for an hour-and-a-half and Monsignor Musaro was very receptive. We left very happy and hopeful about the meeting.” — Berta Soler, leader of the dissident group Ladies in White, who along with two other women recently met with Bruno Musaro, the Vatican’s nuncio in Havana. Soler wants to arrange an audience with the pontiff during his Mar. 26-28 visit to Cuba. “Since capitalism has reached the end of the road, the two great nations of Iran and Cuba now shoulder a heavy responsibility to establish a new world order based on humanity and justice ... Thankfully, we are already witnessing the capitalist system in decay. When it lacks logic, they turn to weapons to kill.” — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, following his Jan. 12 meeting with Fidel Castro. Ahmadinejad, facing global sanctions to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, spent 21 hours in Cuba; his Latin trip also took him to Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua. “Both Iran and Cuba have clear intentions of harming the United States, and both support extremist groups dedicated to bringing destruction to our nation or destabilizing our allies. Iran and Cuba are both state sponsors of terrorism, and need to be treated as immediate threats to our national security. And just as the Iranian regime has rejected every overture by the [Obama] administration, the Castro regime will never be coddled into changing its ways.” — Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), in a Jan. 11 statement condemning what she called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “tour of tyrants” trip to Latin America. “I didn’t know anything about running a restaurant, but I liked the idea of going into business — and so when the law changed, I began little by little.” — Tomás Mayedo Fernández, owner of the luxurious Magno restaurant in Guaimaro, 650 km east of Havana along Cuba’s Carretera Central. It’s one of at least 1,000 privately run “paladares” that have opened since the rules were relaxed in late 2010. “Worst of all is the absence in the White House of a robot capable of governing the United States and preventing a war that would end the life of our species.” — Fidel Castro, writing Jan. 9 on the 2012 U.S. presidential elections. If asked to choose between Obama, a GOP rival or a robot, he said,“90% of Americans, especially Hispanics, blacks and the impoverished middle class, would vote for the robot.” “Please help me. Through this small video I want to send a very respectful and humble message to the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff. Unfortunately, I am forbidden from leaving my own country. I have not committed any crime.” — Yoani Sánchez, in an emotional video appeal posted on YouTube. The famous blogger says Communist authorities have prevented her from traveling abroad since 2004. “This document is further confirmation of what we have said all along — the Cuban authorities cannot point to any action by Alan P. Gross intended to subvert their government. The trial evidence cited in the document confirms that Alan’s actions were intended to improve the Internet and Intranet connectivity of Cuba’s small, peaceful, non-dissident, Jewish community.” — Washington attorney Peter J. Kahn, who represents the Gross family, in a Jan. 19 statement about a court filing posted on the Café Fuerte blog (see news item at left). “Political change is not what Cuban leadership has in mind. There’s a lot of debate around these things and there’s a lot of caution too. But Canada, as an investor in Cuba, with lots of people-to-people contact, wants to play as positive and constructive role as possible.” — Diane Ablonczy, Ottawa’s junior foreign minister for Latin America, in a Jan. 8 interview before flying to Havana for talks with the Castro regime. Cuba is Canada’s leading market in the Caribbean, with two-way trade topping $1 billion in 2010. “You’re allowed to have a cellphone, buy a home, buy a car or have a microenterprise. [But] this is not the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cuba has tremendous difficulties. This is a marathon, and they are taking baby steps.” — Rafael Romeu, head of the Washington-based Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, commenting on Raúl Castro’s latest economic reforms.


CubaNews v January 2012


U.S. meat exporters to Cuba wonder: Where’s the beef? BY VITO ECHEVARRÍA


t’s not hard at all to find steaks, hamburgers and other cuts of beef while browsing through Havana’s “dollar stores” and local meat markets, or dining at privately run restaurants known as paladares. But that meat rarely comes from the United States. This may seem strange, given the fact that in recent years the Cuban government has been importing a range of U.S. agricultural products — from Washington state apples and Nebraska wheat to Massachusetts eggs and rice from Texas. Despite the litany of American food commodities that have made their way to Cuba since passage of the 2000 Trade Reform Sanctions and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA), U.S. beef has clearly not been a major priority for Cuba. A look at trade statistics from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service confirmed that only in one year, 2005, did U.S. beef exports to Cuba exceed $1 million; in some years, the figure has been close to zero. C. Parr Rosson III, an economics professor at Texas A&M University who has studied Cuba over the years, explains the sudden halt of live cattle shipments from the United States to Cuba after 2005, when those shipments reached $1.49 million. “My understanding is that they were Holsteins and did not do well in the tropical climate,” he told CubaNews. Rosson also noted that the bulk of U.S. live cattle sales that took place in the early 2000s were likely a phenomenon pulled off by one man: Florida rancher John Parke Wright IV,

who charmed the Castros, especially Fidel’s older brother Ramón, into buying his heads of cattle (see CubaNews, July 2004, page 8). Rosson said that despite Cuba’s huge tourism market, which would theoretically be ideally suited to superior cuts of U.S. beef, the

attributing the 2005-07 lack of activity to high U.S. beef prices. “My impression is that most of the tourist trade beef is from Brazil and Canada; less from the EU due to higher transport costs and lack of credit for purchases.” However, a Nebraska trade source men-

Cuban government has elected to limit U.S. beef purchases for sale in local meat markets. “The majority of U.S. beef exports to Cuba, especially frozen livers, is for the local market,” he said. “I have not seen or found any U.S. beef cuts in the tourist trade there.” Rosson explains the dramatic drop in exports of frozen beef and veal to Cuba,

tioned that in 2007, the United States was unable to fulfill demands for certain types of beef that the Cubans wanted. “What’s ironic is that those are the two products (liver and ground beef) that we have a shortage of in the U.S., because Egypt is taking all of our livers, and we can’t supply See Beef, page 7


January 2012 v CubaNews

Beef — FROM PAGE 6 our own domestic market with ground beef,” said Mark Spurgin, vice-chairman of the Nebraska Beef Council, in an April 2007 interview with Brownfield Ag News radio. The Brazilian Association of Meat Exporters (ABIEC) said Brazil’s shipments of meat to Cuba hovered between $1 million and $2 million from 2002 to 2005, then shot up to $19.4 million in 2006 and falling down to $4.8 million in 2010.

A 2002 trade mission to Cuba, headlined by then-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, resulted in a contract for farmer Ralph Kaehler of St. Charles, Minn., to ship live cattle to the island. In fact, Kaehler and his two young sons became local celebrities after news photos were published around the world as they


With the Brazilian export promotion group Apex Brasil making a regular presence at the International Trade Fair in Havana (FIHAV) in recent years, Brazilian beef processing companies have been supplying resorts in Cuba such as Meliá with better cuts of beef preferred by higher-paying foreign guests. Canada has also been a steady source of beef for Cuba. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Cuba is a major market for that country’s beef exports, jumping from $678,961 in 2007 to $8.8 million in 2010. Meanwhile, Chilean food exporter Angel Domper, whose trading company TJP Internacional ships various Chilean and other Latin American food products into Cuba, asserts that the Cubans are phasing out such imports in favor of locally produced beef. “Cuba, beginning in January 2012, will only import beef steaks. All other cuts of beef will supplied locally,” he said. “Supplies from Chile and Uruguay have been preferred, since they allow for credit financing, unlike the United States, which demands cash payment. Now, 95% of beef [sold in Cuba] will be of Cuban origin.” Unlike some other U.S. food-related sectors such as California’s wine industry — whose producers were largely unaware they could legally export to Cuba — the beef industry has been actively promoting itself in Cuba.

Fidel and the Kaehler boys sign contracts in 2002.

showed Fidel Castro one of their bulls, named Minnesota Red, during a Havana trade show. In subsequent years, Wright — who declined to speak to CubaNews for this article — managed to sell 400 to 500 Brangus heifers, Brafords, Black Angus and Beef Masters to Cuba’s food purchasing agency, Alimport. One year ago, Wright told us that he had shipped 2,500 “straws” of frozen bull semen to Cuba worth a total of $100,000, with another 2,500 straws to be delivered shortly. He said “Im involved in an artificial insemination program to increase beef production.” In 2010, the Texas-Cuba Trade Alliance, whose membership includes executives from the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, as well as rice, grain and other agricultural interests, was conducting events across the state to educate ranchers and farmers about how to export to Cuba. Regardless of such efforts, these trade groups will have an uphill battle marketing

beef to Cuba, simply because of the government’s limited ability to pay — not to mention Cuban efforts at food self-sufficiency and growing global demand for beef, which has driven prices upwards, making beef even more expensive for average Cubans. In the first 11 months of 2011, U.S. food exports to Cuba came to $323.9 million, down 6% from the $344.3 million shipped during the same period in 2010, according to the U.S. Commerce Department (see chart above). q Vito Echevarria, a New York-based freelance journalist, writes regularly for CubaNews about business, e-commerce, the arts and entertainment.


CubaNews v January 2012


Report from Havana: Cuba is changing, slowly but surely


s I sat on the curb in front of central Havana’s Capitolio — the impressive domed hall that resembles the U.S. Capitol building — and watched the 1950s-era Plymouths and Soviet-made Ladas go belching by, I was sure I had entered a surreal time warp a mere one-hour flight from Miami. And yet, after a week of meetings with Cuban and foreign diplomats, journalists, academics and artists, I became convinced that Cuba, indeed, is changing in many ways. As a relative newcomer to the intricacies of the Cuba question, I was immediately struck by Cuba’s unique blend of decaying splendor, cultural prosperity, restricted freedoms and relative poverty. As everyone knows, Cuba’s highly centralized system, with its impressive achievements in health, education and the arts, is still recovering from the loss of massive Soviet subsidies, hurricanes and a steady outflow of its well-educated workforce. Creditors in China and elsewhere are growing tired of underwriting Cuba’s struggling economy as it tries to move away from its ossified past and into the 21st century. So something had to be done about liberalizing the economy. A closer look, however, reveals something more profound— a wholesale mental shift, outlined clearly by President Raul Castro over the last two years, that the time has come to move the Cuban people from wholesale dependence on the state to a new era of individual responsibility and citizenship.

These changes, while painful, are reason enough to be optimistic about Cuba’s economic future. But something much more fundamental is at work—a turn away from government control of pricing and subsidizing products throughout the economy to a more decentralized framework of subsidizing persons based on need. At heart, the Castro government is prepared to move Cuba from a society based on equity of results to equality of opportunity, infused with a culture of humanism. Not that Cuba’s system ever offered true LARRY LUXNER




This is going to take time. The economic reforms or “updating” of Cuba’s Soviet-style economic system, approved last spring at the Communist Party’s first National Congress in 14 years, are just beginning to be enacted. They include an expansion of licenses for private enterprise (over 350,000 have been granted), opening more idle land to farmers and cooperatives, allowing businesses to hire employees, empowering people to buy and sell their houses and cars, and opening new lines of credit with no legal ceilings on how much Cubans can borrow. Non-state actors are allowed now to sell unlimited services and commodities directly to state-owned enterprises and joint ventures, thereby opening new channels of commercial activity between farmers and tourist hotels, for example. Think Vietnam or China. The reforms include tough measures too, like shrinking the buying power of the longstanding ration card that every Cuban gets to purchase subsidized basic goods, cutting unemployment benefits, and eventually dismissing anywhere from 500,000 to one million employees from the state sector as bureaucratic middlemen become obsolete and tax revenues rise.

If the pace of change is too slow, on the other hand, budding entrepreneurs, the middle class and disaffected youth — who have no overt commitment to the values of the 1959 revolution — may give up sooner and head to greener pastures in the United States, Spain or Canada. As it is, Cubans are leaving the island in droves to join their families in Florida and beyond, beneficiaries of U.S. policies that grant Cubans preferred immigration benefits once their feet reach American soil, and of Spanish laws that grant some Cubans Spanish citizenship. The trick for party officials, then, is to demonstrate enough tangible improvements that Cubans will maintain faith in their ability to lead the country even after the Castros leave the scene. This explains the Communist Party’s determined effort to intensify popular consultations throughout the island and to keep up the momentum and rhetoric of slow but steady change. “In everything we do,” said one official, “we will try to be inclusive.”

Vintage ‘52 Chevy at the Capitolio, Old Havana.

equality, as one taxi driver reminded me as we drove down Havana’s famous seaside Malecón. The door, however, is now opening wider to the inevitable rise in inequality that comes from capitalism, even restrained forms of it. Whether one is able to prosper as a selfemployed restauranteur, or is the beneficiary of generous relatives sending remittances and goods home from Miami, new gradations in Cuba’s economic and social strata are on the way. As long as someone arrives at their wealth legally and pay their taxes, assured one senior party official, they are free to become rich. GETTING THE TIMING RIGHT

The big question for Cuba’s leaders today is whether they can bring their people with them down this new, uncertain path after five decades of Cuban-style communism. If reforms happen too quickly, it could cause excessive dislocation and unhappiness and potentially destabilize the regime. Already bureaucrats who have something to lose under the new system are resisting change, much to Raúl Castro’s chagrin.

There is, indeed, a daunting list of challenges ahead. Cuban officials are working overtime to update legal codes and systems to conform to the new economic policies. A revised tax code is being drafted as well as designs for a new labor system to handle the growing category of self-employed workers not now covered by Cuba’s labor code. A massive education campaign is needed not only to inform and consult the general public but to explain to local officials and civil servants how this is all going to work. New rules for foreign investment remain unfinished business. And major investment is needed to update Cuba’s sagging infrastructure, especially in the telecommunications sector where cell phones and Internet penetration remain the lowest in the hemisphere. One area where Cuba seems to be moving in a positive direction is tourism. From 1990 to 2010, the estimated number of tourists has risen from 360,000 to 2.66 million. In addition, thanks to President Obama’s decision to allow Cuban-American families to visit the island and send remittances as much as they want, Cubans have received over 400,000 visits and roughly $2 billion from relatives in the United States. These are proving to be important sources of currency and commerce that are helping families cope with reduced subsidies and breathe life in the burgeoning private sector. A walk through crowded Old Havana, where construction crews are busy restoring one of the Americas’ great colonial treasures, offers compelling evidence that Cuba can be a strong magnet for Europeans, Canadians, Chinese and—some day—hundreds of thouSee Piccone, page 9


January 2012 v CubaNews


CTP: Cuba still dangerously dependent on Venezuelan oil VANESSA LOPEZ / CUBA TRANSITION PROJECT


s Cuba entered into the Special Period, infamous for significant food shortages and constant blackouts, in 1991 with the disintegration of the USSR and consequent lack of Soviet subsidies, reports the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. Saving Cuba as its new benefactor was Venezuela President Hugo Chávez, who has sacrificed his country’s own needs to financially support a bankrupt Cuba. Chavez has supported the Castro brothers for various reasons. He’s indebted to Fidel for helping him after the 2002 anti-Chávez coup attempt. In addition, he shares with Cuban revolutionaries an ideological hatred for the United States. Finally, Cuba’s security apparatus has helped Chávez solidify his position of power while offering him personal protection. The gross amount of financial assistance flowing from Venezuela to Cuba has been difficult to fully quantify as a result of the secrecy surrounding the affairs of both countries. But looking at a number of indicators, one can estimate that Venezuela’s largesse approaches roughly $10 billion a year for Cuba over the past few years. Without this financial support, the poor state of Cuba’s economy would likely rival the levels of distress experienced during the mid-1990s. Venezuela sends Cuba about 115,000 barrels of oil a day; that’s worth $3.5 billion annually. This oil is reportedly sold at a 40% discount, and Cuba pays the rest through a subsidized loan provided by Venezuela. It is also estimated that Cuba’s medical personnel operating in Venezuela through the

Barrio Adentro program earn Cuba roughly $5.86 billion a year. Between both these sources of aid, Venezuela contributes roughly $9.3 billion to Cuba’s economy yearly. Venezuela’s generosity doesn’t end there. A report by Venezuela’s Bank of Economic and Social Development (Bandes) obtained by El Nuevo Herald and given to ICCAS documents even more financial assistance to Cuba from January 2007 through May 2010. This report indicates that Venezuela provided 100 Cuban companies involved in Venezuela’s “twin enterprises” program with nearly $1 billion worth of solidarity credits. Additionally, $47 million worth of financing was provided for a telecom project between the countries. A line of credit worth at least $100 million was approved for Cuba’s railway sector and a $45.5 million credit line was opened for expansion of two Cuban airports. This figure doesn’t include Venezuela’s $500 million stake in the Cienfuegos oil refinery, and it’s unclear if it includes the $70+ million investment in a joint fiberoptic cable. Similar investment projects are likely in the future. Venezuela also approved a $150 million loan — which Cuba refuses to pay — to help the island recover from hurricanes Ike and Gustav. Ultimately, between January 2007 and May 2010, Bandes approved $1.5 billion worth of aid; 83% of these funds went directly to Cuba (excluding projects that benefit the Caribbean in general), providing Cuba with at least $1.25 billion over the three-year period. All told, between 2007 and 2010, Venezuela subsidized Cuba to the tune of nearly $10 billion per year — an astonishing figure considering Venezuela’s own domestic problems. Raúl Castro, cognizant of Cuba’s increasing

EIU’s outlook for Cuban economy: 2012-16 The Economist Intelligence Unit has issued its outlook for the Cuban economy over the next five years. Among the highlights of this report are the following: n A change of leadership within the forecast period is highly likely. Although we expect the transfer of power to be relatively smooth, there is no obvious candidate for the presidency among the younger generation of politicians. n Even though the global outlook for 2012 is gloomy, we do not expect nickel prices (the main source of foreign exchange) to drop as sharply as in 2008-09, so the authorities should not have to resort to dramatic adjustment measures. n Although the economic reform process will remain uneven and some vital measures (such as improving credit provision) will lag, we nevertheless expect an expanded scope for private enterprise and foreign investment. n Real GDP growth will be relatively low in 2012, at 2.4%. However, there is huge scope for catch-up, with GDP growth expected to pick up from 2013. n Inflation will rise to close to double digits in 2013, assuming that the basket of goods begins to change as price subsidies are scaled back. Rising competition and output should help to reduce inflation thereafter, to 5% by end-2016. n Following moves to increase usage of the “unofficial” (but legal) exchange rate in late 2010, the process of closing the gap with the official rate is forecast to begin in 2013, as part of a strategy to unify the two currencies. Details: Anna Szterenfeld, Latin America Editor, Economist Intelligence Unit, 750 Third Ave., New York, NY 10017. Tel: (212) 554-0608. Email: URL:

dependence on Venezuela, is fostering ties with other ideologically sympathetic world leaders, hoping for other sources of support should Venezuela no longer be willing to so generously support Cuba’s ailing economy. EIU DISCUSSES VENEZUELA IN CUBA REPORT

The Economist Intelligence Unit also talks about Cuba-Venezuela ties over the next few years in its 2012 Cuba country report. “Venezuelan largesse will be a vital source of support for the economy and the government, owing to the favorable terms of trade that link Cuba’s oil imports to the supply of Cuban healthcare and educational professionals in Venezuela,” according to an EIU Cuba country report issued in December. “The uncertain outlook in that country will be a key concern to Cuba in the coming months, given that Chávez, has received treatment for cancer,” it says. As long as Chávez. 57, remains in power, Cuba’s access to preferential oil imports will continue. But what happens after he’s gone? “If a chavista were to succeed him, the agreement would be likely to remain in place, but if the current opposition were to take office, it could be scaled back,” says the EIU. “However, given the popularity among the poor of programs such as the one involving Cuban doctors, even if the Venezuelan opposition were to take power, the agreements with Cuba could be phased out over several years, rather than terminated immediately.” Despite this, it says, “Cuba will continue to broaden its international economic ties, with China, Brazil and Russia becoming more important trade and investment partners.” q

Piccone — FROM PAGE 8 sands of American visitors. For now, Cuba’s slow-motion evolution toward a hybrid phase of economic liberalization and political control remains a work in progress. The next Communist Party conference to be held later this month is likely to bring only modest changes in the regime’s aging leadership, for example, but promises of adopting term limits for senior government officials appear all but certain to be fulfilled. Raúl Castro, a military man who believes in discipline, organization and institutions, has instituted regular cabinet meetings and clear lines of communication. In this sense, he is no Fidel. These, too, are signs of change that will, with time, make long overdue reconciliation with the United States inevitable. q Ted Piccone is a senior fellow and deputy director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. CubaNews thanks Piccone and Brookings for granting permission to reprint this report.


CubaNews v January 2012


Law 288 offers hope to lucky Cubans with property to sell


mparo Lopez was thrilled when Cuba’s socialist government legalized the buying and selling of homes last November. Her apartment in Havana’s Vedado district is too big for her, so she put it on the market. “My husband died recently. My mother died. I am alone now, and I’d like something smaller,” she said. “I want something nice, where I am comfortable.” Lopez, a retired history professor, joins millions of property owners in Cuba who stand to benefit from the new decree, officially known as Law 288, which allows home sales. That law is “excellent,” she said. It has created a new bustle — an “effervescence,” as she described it, in the Cuban economy. “Everyone is busy with their apartments, with their houses,” she told CubaNews. “They have projects. Home sales can give people money to start businesses, to do new things. Really it’s madness right now. People are motivated. Money and goods are circulating. People are hoping society will improve.” The new law has the potential to help transform the Cuban economy, said Tony Zamora, a Miami lawyer and expert on Cuba’s emerging real-estate market.

listed on the property title. He believes Cuban officials will eventually allow that. He’s also convinced that the economic reforms will continue. “This is unstoppable,” he said. “I don’t think the Cuban government’s going to put an end to it.” Some Cuban exiles hope to recover properties the Castro regime confiscated just after the 1959 revolution, but Zamora said that’s “never going to happen.” More likely, he pre-

have Internet access and make do with browsing through the handwritten list he maintains. On a recent afternoon, his most expensive listing was for a home in the Fontanar district. It listed for about $130,000. Other homes, including apartments, went for as low as $2,000. “The price range is enormous,” Lopez said. “I’ve seen people selling a room for 3,000 or 2,000 convertible pesos. And I’ve seen houses advertised for 200,000 or 300,000 pesos.” TRACEY EATON



Before the law was enacted, he said, there were 2.5 million homes in Cuba worth an average of $20,000 each. The value of those properties, he estimates, has since jumped by 50% to $30,000. “That’s a ton of money,” he said — money that can help jump-start the Cuban economy by encouraging new businesses and jobs. But Cuba isn’t going to create a thriving real-estate market overnight, said Zamora, who is also part-owner of CubaNews. People on the island must adapt to a new way of doing things. That means, for starters, that homeowners must register their property titles. He said that a 1996 law required title registration, but only about 20% of property owners did so. As part of the process, owners must do a title search and find out who the former owner was. Zamora said that among his lawyer friends in Cuba, about 80% are doing title work right now because the demand for that service is so high. Property transactions must be conducted through a Cuban bank, although Cuban authorities are not allowing mortgages to be taken out on the purchases of private homes. “You don’t have foreclosures and you don’t have people losing their property,” he said. Cubans’ relatives in the United States and other countries are allowed to help pay for home purchases, but the title must be in the name of the Cuban who will live in the home. Zamora said it’s only fair that CubanAmericans who invest in Cuban properties be

Rolando Mendez shows off the latest home listings nailed to a tree trunk in Havana’s Paseo del Prado.

dicted, home sales will create new wealth in Cuba as the socialist economy evolves. Zamora cited the research of Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, who believes that property ownership can help lead people out of poverty. “Property ownership creates wealth,” Zamora said. “In Cuba, 90% of the people own homes. So the ability to buy and sell property should have a wide impact.” Before the law was enacted, Cubans were allowed to trade homes, but no money was supposed to change hands. In practice, many people slipped cash to sellers illegally to get the homes they wanted. DOING IT THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY

Some buyers advertise on such Internet sites as Cubisima and Revolico. But many people have no access to the Internet in Cuba and have found other ways to make deals. Even before home sales were legalized, prospective buyers in Havana often met along tree-lined Paseo del Prado. For a small fee, Rolando Mendez, 65, will let people look through home listings that are nailed to a gnarled tree trunk. “Everything is legal,” he said. “Now all sales are legal.” Mendez, a retired driver, shows up at Paseo del Prado from Monday to Saturday, and says he gets 6-10 clients per day. They usually don’t

Sellers say some of the most coveted houses are in Havana’s Vedado, Playa and Miramar neighborhoods. Homes in Guanabo, a beach town east of Havana, are also popular. q Tracey Eaton, a former Cuba correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, was based in Havana from 2000 to 2005 and now teaches journalism in St. Augustine, Fla. Read his “Along the Malecón” blog at


Ciudad de La Habana Santiago de Cuba Holguín Granma Villa Clara Camagüey Pinar del Río Matanzas Las Tunas Artemisa Guantánamo Sancti Spíritus Ciego de Avila Cienfuegos Mayabeque Isla de la Juventud


2,141,993 1,047,181 1,037,326 835,808 803,690 782,582 592,945 690,223 536,112 510,944 502,392 465,542 422,643 405,545 381,446 86,256

*Source: Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas; 2011 estimates.


January 2012 v CubaNews



Exotix trades on Cuba’s illiquid debt BY VITO ECHEVARRÍA

ack in May 2008, CubaNews profiled London brokerage house Exotix Ltd., which has made a specialty of selling illiquid debt instruments from countries like Cuba, North Korea, Iraq and Serbia that remain below the radar in global financial markets. Much of the $2 billion in defaulted illiquid debt the Castro regime racked up with international creditors over the years included export credit agencies from Spain and France, as well as similar entities elsewhere. Now, with various institutional and private investors purchasing such debt at pennies on the dollar, it’s possible that event-driven speculation — like the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, Raúl Castro’s economic reforms and government shakeups in Havana — will raise the value of illiquid Cuban financial instruments. One high-profile investor who dabbles in such things, British multimillionaire Nicholas Berry, reportedly bought up as much as €148 million in such paper some years back. When CubaNews profiled Exotix in 2008, Cuban debt was trading in the 14-to-17-cent range. Given that holders of Cuban debt cannot realistically expect a quick return on their investments, the debt holders’ ultimate goal is to be able to cash in on a major overhaul of that country’s economic system, whenever that happens. But that would require Cuba’s future leaders to fully honor the country’s previous financial obligations. That’s a prerequisite for Cuba to fully participate in the world economy and join multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank — assuming Washington doesn’t put up roadblocks.



Exotix had success with Serbian debt. In October 2000, just before Serbia’s nationalist ruler Slobodan Milosevic left power, Exotix traded the Yugoslav 1988 New Financing Agreement loans, which were priced at about 15% of face value. Two and a half years later, Exotix traded them at 95% of face. Following regime change in that country, those who bought such paper reaped returns of between 100% and 500% over the next three years. This no doubt explains Exotix’s backing from none other than Michael Spencer, one of Great Britain’s wealthiest individuals and the founder of ICAP, the world’s largest interdealer broker. ICAP now has a 19.9% share in Exotix. Investors are wondering whether recent reforms announced by Raúl Castro — ranging from letting Cubans run their own small businesses to the legalization of a real-estate market — will drive up the value of Cuban debt. “We have been following the development with great interest and to a large degree this

is a positive step in the right direction,” says Morten Bugge, managing partner of the Denmark-based emerging markets hedge fund Global Evolution A/S, which holds an undisclosed amount of Cuban debt. “Cuba is, however, still a strongly eventdriven investment opportunity that largely depends on a series of events to unfold — similar to what we have seen in the past for Serbia, Iraq, Liberia and Ivory Coast.” Bugge calls Cuba “still a long-term story” and cautions investors to watch out for a number of triggers “including the Castro family leaving power, the United States lifting the embargo completely (which in fact will be the biggest threat to the regime), the agricultural sector with much larger private involvement” and expansion of the port of Mariel and its functioning as a fully operational port. NEGATIVE TRENDS AND FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Other factors could push things in the wrong direction, he said. These include Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez not getting re-elected later this year, which could be disastrous for the Cuban economy. “This could lead to a total blackout overnight and send the country into a deep crisis,” Bugge told CubaNews. “Infrastructure in Cuba is very fragile to the risk of hurricanes, or an event in the tourist sector — be it food poisoning or some other event that keeps 2.5 million tourists a year away. Lastly, the 1996 Helms-Burton Act will need to be resolved before the legal framework is in place for foreign investments.” Some negative trends are already taking place and appear to have dampened foreign investment, said Bugge, such as the corruption charges levied last year against businessmen like Chile’s Max Marambio, Canada’s Cy Tokmakjian and others. “The government in Cuba cannot be trusted not to move the goal posts whenever they like,” he told CubaNews. “They have a proven track record of just stopping paying debts when it suits them and when they think there is nothing more they can take out of a relationship. On the performing side of Cuban debt, the 10-year track record of performance was destroyed when Cuba stopped paying its debts in 2009.” Despite these risks, Bugge doesn’t dismiss outright the potential returns on distressed Cuban debt sometime in the future. “There is still a case for an optional purchase of Cuban debt,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that this debt will jump in value at some stage and could pay off hugely. “And with interest rates so low, there is less of an opportunity cost in holding non-performing paper,” he added. “But the current investors in Cuban debt are not buying more, and Cuban loans are trading at the same levels as a decade ago.” q

HOTELS CAN BUY CROPS DIRECT FROM FARMERS As of late December 2011, agricultural producers and tourism companies have signed 71 agreements for direct food sales, the Communist newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported. In an effort to substitute food imports and stimulate private farming, the government passed a decree on Dec. 2 that opened the window for agricultural cooperatives and private farmers to sell their crops directly to hotels and restaurants. Until then, farmers were only allowed to sell their production beyond the state quota at roadside stands and in farmer's markets. Hard-currency restaurants received their produce either from state distribution monopoly Acopio or as imports in hard currency. A farm cooperative in Matanzas province and a hotel in Varadero operated by Spanish company Iberostar signed the first agreement in early December, according to the paper. The Iberostar Taínos, intent on improving the variety of the menu and freshness of food in its restaurants, has already bought citrus, papaya, guava, pineapple, tomatoes and cabbage directly from nearby growers. While the farmers formally sign agreements with the large state companies that own the hotels and restaurants — such as Cubanacán, Gran Caribe, Islazul and Palmares — they negotiate prices in non-convertible pesos and conditions directly with the purchasing manager of each hotel. In Varadero, the restaurants of the Taínos, Las Morlas, Breezes, Bella Costa, Acuazul, Barceló Solymar and Royal Hicacos hotels, as well as the golf course are being supplied directly by farms in the province. Plans include purchases of flowers and organic produce. Most of the direct sales contracts have been signed for hotels and restaurants in the city of Havana (22), followed by Matanzas province (12), Camagüey (8), Villa Clara and Granma (seven each), according to the newspaper. The administrator of a private farmers’ cooperative in Matanzas told Juventud Rebelde that, while the amounts each hotel in Varadero needs are relatively small, once the coop has various hotels under contract, the benefits of selling without intermediaries are bigger. “We pull the lettuce at 7 a.m., and it’s in the hotel a little more than an hour later,” he said. DAIMLER: SORRY FOR USING CHE IMAGE IN AD Daimler AG, the German company that manufactures Mercedes-Benz luxury cars, called its promotional use of an image of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara a “thoughtless” and “stupid” decision that was not intended to offend people. But that has done little to quiet prominent figures within the Cuban exile community, including two U.S. lawmakers, who described Che as a “sadistic serial killer” who murdered thousands of men, women and children. Che’s image appeared briefly Jan. 10 during a promo for Mercedes-Benz at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


CubaNews v January 2012


Cuba awaits boom in mineral water, therapeutic springs BY ARMANDO H. PORTELA


ore than two decades after Cuba bet on tourism as its chief foreignexchange earner, the island’s therapeutic spring water system and mineral water resources still show nothing but good potential for future development. The boom in international tourism and investments is primarily focused on six hotspots absorbing most visitors (see CubaNews, December 2011, page 11). But it missed some well-known and already developed sites, such as San Diego de los Baños in Pinar del Río, San Miguel in Matanzas and Elguea in Villa Clara (indicated respectively by the numbers 4, 10 and 12 in the accompanying map and table at right). In some cases, these operations were left to decay or were kept for limited local use, though a couple of successful joint ventures were formed with European partners to develop and market bottled mineral water at Los Portales, Pinar del Río (1) and Ciego Montero in Cienfuegos (13). The sector has great potential, mainly because Cuba’s spring-fed mineral waters seem to be safe from pollution or depletion suffered by other major water sources (for a complete three-part report on Cuba’s water resources, see the July, August and September 2011 issues of CubaNews). Construction of the Carretera Central from 1927 to 1932 — a key event in recent Cuban history — changed the face of Cuba’s countryside and opened up large areas for economic development. Mineral springs, once virtually unknown outside of their immediate vicinity, suddenly became popular attractions. Within a few years, hotels and bathing resorts sprouted up in rural areas to accommodate a growing number of Cubans as well as Americans who came for treatment and rest. Small towns grew up alongside springs in

places such as San Diego and San Miguel. In fact, a lavish hotel and spa boasting marble floors, cast-iron doors, beautiful stained-glass windows, exuberant gardens and even a private airstrip was built in 1930 at San Miguel de los Baños, barely 20 miles south of Varadero Beach. The hotel-spa was a distinguished destina-

tion throughout the first half of the 20th century. It used to draw thousands of visitors per year and frequently hosted conferences, political events and elegant social gatherings . San Miguel was closed soon after the government seized the property in the early 1960s, only to reopen it a decade later. But it See Springs, page 13

January 2012 v CubaNews

Springs — FROM PAGE 12 was finally abandoned in the late 1980s. Today it hurts to see the ruins of a oncemagnificent building looted for its wooden windows and doors, old plumbing and even pieces of its marble floor. The town is currently home to 2,900 people and still manages to surprise visitors for its elegant yet decayed construction, oversized church, wide streets and manicured gardens.

Ciego Montero is a top Cuban bottled water brand.

Rebuilding the hotel to its former pride might be impossible now, but a future rebirth should not be ruled out — especially considering its short distance to Varadero Beach and the quality of its waters. Throughout Cuba, recent initiatives to revamp Cuba’s mineral water system have failed as scarce investments go to create new hotel infrastructure and capacity at beach resorts. Cuba’s therapeutic destinations, meanwhile, remain neglected. This sector will only reemerge when domestic consumers regain the wealth and ability to spend money on leisure and health activities. After all, it was Cubans — not foreigners — who made such luxurious resorts flourish in the past. European or Canadian tourists, traveling to Cuba for its beaches and well- established thermal resorts at home, will hardly make the trip for this reason. American tourists — once common guests at Cuba’s mineral springs resorts — will have to rediscover these old destinations visited by their parents or grandparents more than half a century ago. The tranquil, bucolic location of Cuban health resorts might be a powerful magnet to draw retired communities in the future while still serving temporary visitors. Mineral springs are relatively common in Cuba. They’re associated with the island’s old intricate geologic structure and rainy climate. Most springs are located along or close to the northern shore, dubbed the Mineral Water Belt, which closely tracks belts of Jurassic limestone imbricate with serpentines See Springs, page 15



BUSINESS BRIEFS BWI TO BEGIN HAVANA FLIGHTS ON MAR. 21 Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport will now offer flights to Cuba, one year after the White House encouraged more travel to the communist country. Island Travel & Tours announced Jan. 17 that nonstop charter services between BWI and Havana will start on Mar. 21, just before Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Cuba beginning Mar. 26. Flights will depart BWI daily at 3 p.m. “There has been great interest and excitement generated by this approved air service to Cuba,” said William Hauf, president of Island Travel & Tours. “The charter service from BWI Marshall will greatly facilitate travel to Cuba by organizations and individuals from Maryland, the Washington, D.C., region and the entire Mid-Atlantic.” Officials said there are many academics, journalists, religious institutions, cultural groups and other organizations throughout the region that would benefit from the direct charter service to Cuba. Last spring, BWI won approval from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to handle passenger charter air service to and from Cuba. The Castro regime subsequently approved Island Travel & Tours, a licensed travel service provider, to offer the service. Details: Island Travel & Tours, Washington. Tel: (202) 558-2136. Email: URL: STATE MOVES SOME CAFÉS INTO PRIVATE HANDS For the first time since they were nationalized in the ‘60s, Cuba has opened the door to private management of some state-run cafés and food outlets, Reuters reported Jan. 13. The extension of President Raúl Castro’s plans to put more retail businesses in private hands is under way as an experiment in eastern Holguin province, where the government will lease to employees more than 200 small cafeterias this year. In the bustling provincial capital, Holguín, private restaurants, cafeterias and snack shops with attractive names and menus provide stiff competition on almost every block to state-run outlets identified only by number and with state-dictated portions. Osvaldo Santos Díaz, head of the state's food services in Holguín, recently told local media that sales would be down in 2012, “because 211 outlets will move to other forms of management.” National media have not mentioned the Holguín program, apparently because it is an experiment that will become generalized sometime in the future. Under recent reforms begun by Raúl, thousands of state barbershops, beauty parlors and service outlets such as watch and domestic appliance repair, shoe shining and carpentry shops have been handed over to their employees on a leasing basis after similar experiments that weren’t publicized by the island’s state-run media.

CubaNews v January 2012

Julio Cesar Zayas, director of food services in the Barajagua district of Cueto municipality, said the food outlets would be leased to employees to operate as private businesses, pay taxes and compete with thousands of private, mainly home-based cafeterias which have opened around the country over the last year. “There are seven outlets in Cueto that will move to the new system in April,” Zayas said. Cuba’s state-run food services are notorious for providing poor service, dismal food, diverting supplies and filching customers by skimping on the size of state-assigned portions for

everything from a ham sandwich or pizza to a cup of coffee or shot of rum. The Paraiso, a rundown cafeteria that sells rum, soft drinks, cigarettes and snacks in the mountain town of Barajagua, is on the list. “I think this policy will lead to more earnings for employees and better service for consumers,” said the Paraiso’s manager, Eusmar Gomez Rodríguez. “Under the new system we will be able to directly purchase and sell what we want and offer more than we do now.” CUBAN-VENEZUELAN NICKEL PLANT ‘ON TRACK’ Construction of a joint venture ferronickel plant with Venezuela in the eastern province of Holguín is on schedule and should be done by early 2014, Reuters reported Jan. 16. Provincial television station Tele Cristal reported the fuel tanks that will feed the plant are under construction, showing video of the work underway at the facility, which is off-lim-

its to foreign journalists. It said there have been no construction delays, and that “the plant should be finished by the close of 2013 or the first trimester of 2014.” Cuba and Venezuela formed Ferronickel SA in 2007 to complete the Camarioca nickel works left unfinished with the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The two countries have also formed a joint venture in Venezuela to produce stainless steel using Cuban ferronickel. Plans call for $700 million to be invested in the Cuban part of the project and $600 million in the steel plant. Cuban officials have said in the past that Camarioca, located in Moa, Holguín, could produce 68,000 tons of ferronickel annually (21,000 tons nickel) using the tailings of two nickel plants in the mining town. The Cuban nickel industry is located in Holguin where local media, reporting on the province’s economic performance in 2011, said it met “99% of the plan” without further details. Cuba currently has three nickel processing plants operating in Holguín, one a joint venture with Canadian resource company Sherritt International and two older state-run plants. Official reports say Sherritt produced a record 37,000 tons of unrefined nickel plus cobalt but provided no data on the Cuban plants. The government has not reported annual production of unrefined nickel plus cobalt since output dipped under 70,000 tons in 2010. Cuba produced 70,100 tons in 2009 and 70,400 tons in 2008, after averaging 74,000 to 75,000 tons during much of the decade. TAMPA PORT AUTHORITY PLANS CUBA MISSION Tampa port director Richard Wainio plans to visit Cuba with a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce trade mission in February or March, the Tampa Tribune reported Jan.19. The port authority board on today directed Wainio to meet with officials of Alimport, Cuba’s state-run food importing agency. Port business with Cuba is heavily restricted by U.S. law to allow only agricultural and medical products in cash advance deals. Despite its proximity to Florida, Cuba ranks 90th among the state’s foreign trade partners with under 1 million tons of annual cargo. Details: Debra Davis, Tampa Port Authority, 1101 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33602. Tel: (813) 905-5124. Email:

Scarabeo 9 oil rig arrives in Cuban waters


massive oil rig has arrived in Cuban waters and is set to begin exploring for undersea crude. The Scarabeo 9 rig can be seen in the distance off the coast of Havana. Spain’s Repsol-YPF SA is carrying out the exploratory effort under a contract with the Cuban government. Repsol says the rig will sink a single well in 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) of water about 30 miles (50 km) north of Havana and 56 miles (90 km) south of Key West, Fla. The drilling effort has stirred up controversy in the United States and fears of a massive spill. The moveable $750 million

drilling platform was just given a passing grade by inspectors with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, as well as members of the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. inspectors toured the rig while it was in Trinidad & Tobago, at Repsol’s invitation. Repsol will be the first of several drilling companies to explore for oil in Cuban waters, at a cost of $511,000 a day. The agencies said their “personnel found the vessel to generally comply with existing international and U.S. standards by which Repsol has pledged to abide.”


January 2012 v CubaNews


Flesh-eating zombies: Will horror film be a box-office hit?


he Havana Film Festival usually highlights Cuban-made films like “Fresa y Chocolate,” “Habana Blues” and “Guantanamera” that appeal to intellectually inclined “art film” crowds overseas — in other words, films with a limited audience. Things may be different this time around. At last month’s film fest in Havana, the fuss was all about a campy yet commercially appealing film called “Juan de los Muertos” (Juan of the Dead in Spanish). Borrowing heavily from zombie horror films like “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “Shawn of the Dead” (2004), “Juan de los Muertos” answers the question: What would happen if flesh-eating zombies showed up in Fidel’s Cuba? The movie brings to life that very scenario when a 40-something slacker, witnessing the invasion of these creatures at major Havana landmarks like the Malecón and Plaza de la Revolución, decides to take advantage of the situation by charging local residents to kill off the creatures. The film makes fun of contemporary Cuban society and politics when it shows staterun TV news reports writing off the zombie invasion as a U.S.-backed dissident plot. Other scenes depict Cubans escaping the zombies by taking to the seas like balseros (rafters) — and the eerily quiet streets that recall the days of Cuba’s economic crisis after the Soviet bloc’s collapse in the early 1990s. SCARY FLICK IS A FOUR-WAY VENTURE

While “Juan de los Muertos” might be scary, its financial prospects look quite good. The government’s ongoing cash crunch compelled Havana filmmakers to secure overseas financing to make the horror flick on a budget of about $2 million. That resulted in a four-way collaboration involving 34-year-old Cuban director Alejandro Brugues, the state-run Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Industry and Arts (ICAIC), Spanish production company La Zanfoña Producciones and Mexico’s Latinofusión, acting as the movie’s international sales agent. “I was walking through Havana one day and looked at the expressions on peoples’ faces. Zombies. They didn’t even need makeup,” Brugues told The Guardian, discussing his inspiration for the film — the grind of everyday life in Cuba. Large crowds showed up for the release of Cuba’s first-ever horror movie. It even turned famed Havana blogger Yoani Sánchez into a film critic, who noted in her blog the “extremely long lines outside the movie theaters, some of which end up with police beatings and pepper spray falling on dozen of eyes.” Before its screening in Havana last month, “Juan de los Muertos” had already been wellreceived at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s been

released in Spain, and distribution deals have been signed with Panda Storm (Germany), Cinema Prestige (Russia), Metrodome (Great Britain) and Fine Films (Japan). In the United States, the film will be distributed by Outsider Pictures in theatrical release this April, and Focus World in other media formats, Latinofusión’s CEO, Alfredo

The success that “Juan de los Muertos” is enjoying bodes well for future productions that can proudly say “Made in Cuba.” “If [Cuban filmmakers] continue betting on independent productions like these,” producer Gervasio Iglesias of La Zanfoña Producciones told CubaNews, “then apart from ICAIC, they have an excellent path to go.” q JUVENTUD REBELDE


A scene from Cuba’s zombie flick “Juan de los Muertos” (above) and a poster advertising the new film.

Calvino, told CubaNews earlier this month. Focus World is the digital distribution division of foreign film distributor Focus Features, based in Universal City, Calif. The company is best known for releasing films through video-on-demand and electronic sell-through platforms, including cablesatellite providers, iTunes, Xbox 360, Playstation and YouTube. Outsider Pictures is a small independent distributor, meaning that “Juan de los Muertos” is likely to be shown at art theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and other major U.S. cities. The film has already received warm reviews from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, The Guardian and the Spanish newspapers El País and El Mundo. ZOMBIES COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU

But it remains to be seen whether more than one screen per theater will be made available to such audiences. Along with its U.S. commercial release, the distribution deal with Focus World will also provide for screenings of “Juan de los Muertos” at various U.S. film festivals. The Miami International Film Festival, for example, set to run Mar. 2-11, recently announced that the Cuban zombie movie will be included in its lineup — and will likely attract a sizeable Cuban-American audience. “The concept of a zombie movie in Cuba is mind-blowing for the genre,” says Jauretsi Saizarbitoria, a New York-based CubanAmerican filmmaker awaiting its U.S. release. “I’m surprised the Cuban government allowed it to happen. Besides the blood and guts, it will open up lots of conversation. I’m very excited for these young filmmakers.”

Springs — FROM PAGE 13 and other volcanic rocks, sometimes hidden under more recent deposits. Geologic faults combined with high underground temperatures help funnel the water to the surface. Another group of natural springs in southeastern Cuba, along the Sierra Maestra, is associated with a Paleocene volcanic belt recently raised by potent tectonic forces. Depending on specific mineral content, Cuban springs have therapeutic benefits. Deep sourced, highly mineralized water containing sulfates and chlorine waters are often hot or even mildly radioactive. For more than a century their medical benefits have been known. These include respiratory, digestive and nervous disorders, as well as heart ailments and joint problems. Some springs, such as those found at San Miguel, are said to be effective even for gynecological disorders. Other springs have been used for decades as drinking water sources. These waters contain low levels of minerals, usually calcium, magnesium and sodium bicarbonate salts. These include the springs and bottling plants at Los Portales and Ciego Montero, as well as those of La Cotorra, El Copey, Amaro, Lobatón, La Palma, Peña Azul, Tínima, Caney and Porto Santo. Cuban sources report 14 bottled mineralwater brands at the moment, but the production of some of these brands may have been discontinued by press time. q Havana-born Armando Portela has contributed to CubaNews since the newsletter’s birth in 1993. Portela, who has a Ph.D. in geography from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, lives in Miami, Fla.


CALENDAR OF EVENTS If your organization is sponsoring an upcoming event, please let our readers know! Fax details to CubaNews at (3 0 1 ) 9 4 9 -0 0 6 5 or send e-mail to Jan. 1 8 : “Cuba: Is it Time for the U.S. to Normalize Relations and End the Sanctions?” World Affairs Council, Washington. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson will argue in favor of ending the U.S. embargo; Heritage Foundation’s Mike González will argue for keeping it in place. Moderator: Ginger Thompson of the New York Times. Cost: $10. Details: World Affairs Council, 1200 18th St. NW, Suite #902, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: (202) 202-293-1051. URL: Jan. 2 6 : Oil industry expert Jorge Piñón, who has studied Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico oil drilling plans extensively, speaks at Friends of the Marathon Library. Program is at St. Columba Episcopal Church, 451 52nd Street, Marathon, FL. Details: Monroe County Public Library, 3251 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050-2344. Tel: (305) 743-5156. URL: Jan. 2 6 : AACCLA’s “Outlook on the Americas” Luncheon, Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Fla. Featured speaker: Alan García, former president of Peru. Also speaking: Susan Kaufman Purcell, director, Center for Hemispheric Policy, University of Miami, and José Raúl Perales, executive director, Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America. Cost: $90. Details: Allison Parmiter, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20062-2000. Tel: (202) 463-5573. Email: URL: Jan. 2 7 : “Challenges to the United States: Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.” Lecture by John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to United Nations and now senior fellow at American Enterprise Institute. Introduction by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of House Foreign Affairs Committee. Cost: $20. Details: Vanessa López, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, Casa Bacardi, 1531 Brescia Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33146. Tel: (305) 284-5386. Email:

CubaNews v January 2012

CARIBBEAN UPDATE You already know what’s going in Cuba, thanks to CubaNews. Now find out what’s happening in the rest of this diverse and fast-growing region. Subscribe to Caribbean UPDATE, a monthly newsletter founded in 1985. Corporate and government executives, as well as scholars and journalists, depend on this publication for its insightful, timely coverage of the 30-plus nations and territories of the Caribbean and Central America. When you receive your first issue, you have two options: (a) pay the accompanying invoice and your subscription will be processed; (b) if you’re not satisfied, just write “cancel” on the invoice and return it. There is no further obligation on your part. The cost of a subscription to Caribbean UPDATE is $277 per year. A special rate of $139 is available to academics, non-profit organizations and additional subscriptions mailed to the same address. To order, contact Caribbean UPDATE at 116 Myrtle Ave., Millburn, NJ 07041, call us at (973) 376-2314, visit our new website at or send an email to We accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Jan. 2 8 : “Carlos y Marta en concierto: Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca.” Carlos Gómez and Marta Ramirez perform songs including from their newest CD, “Hermosa Cuba tu brillante cielo.” Cost: $25. Details: Vanessa López, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, Casa Bacardi, 1531 Brescia Ave., Coral Gables, FL 33146. Tel: (305) 284-5386. Email: Feb. 6 -2 9 : “Cuba’s Past, Present and Future.” Executive certificate course in Cuban studies, University of Miami. Sessions are 6:30-8:30 pm every Monday and Wednesday in February. Professors include well-known Cuba scholars José Azel, Andy Gómez, Brian Latell, Vanessa López, Pedro Roig and Jaime Suchlicki, among others. Cost: $395 (including course materials). Details: Vanessa López, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, Casa Bacardi, 1531 Brescia Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33146-2439. Tel: (305) 284-5386. Email:


Washington correspondent n ANA RADELAT n




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January 2012 Issue  

Where’s the beef? Political briefs Cuba’s illiquid debt EIU’s outlook It’s hard to tell if Cuba’s making progress when key economic statisti...